My three takes from Wyoming’s 76-53 victory over Utah State Wednesday night.
1. That’s more like it: UW played better defense as the 53 points was the second-lowest point total its allowed in Mountain West play this season. Utah State shot a respectable 45.8 percent, but was just 6 of 18 from 3-point range. The Cowboys forced 11 turnovers and scored 15 points off those mistakes. The Cowboys also didn’t allow any second-chance points, and held a 30-21 rebounding edge. The Cowboys did a good job of going after Utah State redshirt freshman forward David Collette, who had 10 points in 5 of 6 shooting, but he wasn’t much of a factor in the game. The Cowboys never trailed in the game. This was the UW team many fans were used to seeing much of this season.
2. Nifty Nance: Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. had his seventh double-double of the season and 18th of his career with 21 points and 10 rebounds — both game highs. But what stood out about Nance’s game was his ability to hit short to mid-range jumpers. Seven of his nine baskets were jumpers, which Utah State was willing to give him. If Nance can continue to hit those shots, he becomes much more difficult to defend. Perhaps it was the emotion of senior night, but Nance looked more like the preseason player of the year in the MW in this game, and looked like he is on the tail end of recovering from mononucleosis — good news for the Cowboys as tournament time approaches.
Here are some second half highlights — along with some special events late and after the game — along with the post-game interview session with all five UW seniors:
3. Give it to the guards: Senior Jack Bentz made his first-career start. The seldom used walk-on didn’t just start, he played 20 minutes and had a career-high six assists with no turnovers. Bentz didn’t score, and if he had the roof may have come off the Arena-Auditorium. Junior guard Josh Adams came off the bench so Bentz could start. Adams played starter minutes (27) but had 17 points, tied a career-high with eight assists and had no turnovers. A far cry from the six turnovers he had at Utah State in a 56-44 UW loss on Jan. 27. Adams was 3 of 5 from 3-point range, and is 11 of 20 from behind the arc over his last three games. UW did a good job of attacking the basket early, and also kept the turnovers down
with six. And, let’s not forget about senior guard Riley Grabau. He had nine points on 3 of 8 shooting from 3-point range. He’s made three 3s in each of UW’s last three games, and he’s 12 of 27 from 3 over the last five games.
A few other notes from the game:
— Adams became the 34th player in school history to score 1,000 points with a layup in the first half — his first points of the game.
— Redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon tied a career-high with 10 points. He made all four of his shots, and both of his free throws. It was uncertain if Herndon would play due to some knee tendinitis. If he and Nance — along with the solid play of senior Derek Cooke Jr. (11 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, one blocked shot) — continues, good things could happen for the Cowboys.
— UW not only made outside shots, but it scored 32 points in the paint. That marks the 13th time this season the Cowboys have scored 30 or more points there. They are 13-0 in those games.
— It was a night to remember for UW’s five seniors. Here is their introductions prior to the game:
— In the second half, as the game started to get out of hand, Utah State coach Stew Morrill wasn’t happy with Shyatt about what he perceived was Shyatt asking the officials to look at the replay monitor about something. Morrill shouted at Shyatt about it, saying: “You’re already kicking our (butt), you don’t need to do that.” All seemed fine after the game as the two shook hands and had some kind words for each other.
A good win and a good game for the Cowboys, who now are 22-8 overall and 11-6 in the conference — their most MW wins since the 2001-02 team won 11. That team went on to the NCAA Tournament. UW also moved into a tie for fourth place in the conference with Utah State (18-11, 11-6). UW can still get as high as a third seed for next week’s MW Tournament if it wins at New Mexico Saturday and Utah State beats Colorado State in Logan, Utah. More than likely, the Cowboys will be a fourth or fifth seed, and will play Utah State again a week from Thursday.
For more on this game, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net. Also, be sure to join me for my weekly live chat on UW sports at 3 p.m. Thursday. Links will be at wyosports.net and this blog.